Ute Röschenthaler
IFK_Senior Fellow

Duration of fellowship
01. October 2019 bis 31. January 2020

Ute Röschenthaler


From China to the Sahel: The Rise of Green Tea in West Africa


The project examines tea as a global product that has traveled across different times and continents, political economies, cultural contexts, and religious affiliations until it reached Mali, in West Africa, and adjacent countries. In these countries, green tea became the dominant drink—and not black tea or coffee, which had been colonially introduced. The tea leaves did not arrive alone but together with the necessary equipment, prescriptions for preparation and consumption, and meanings that translate differently along the beverage’s pathways. Regional modifications in equipment, consumption, and interpretation of green tea can be understood as cultural translations of one and the same cultural good and its material and immaterial components. The project explores such cultural translations in relation to another beverage, coffee, which likewise has a global dissemination history, but with distinct similarities and key differences in equipment, consumption, and interpretation.


Ute Röschenthaler studied anthropology, journalism, and German literature at the Free University of Berlin, where she also received her Ph.D. for a study on women’s arts in Cameroon and Nigeria. She worked on art projects in Paris, at the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders,” and on the project “Africa’s Asian Options” in Frankfurt. Her second book considers the history of cult associations in the Cross River region.


with Alessandro Jedlowski (eds.), Mobility between Africa, Asia and Latin America: Economic Networks, Cultural Interaction and Aspirations of Success, London 2017; with Mamadou Diawara (eds.), Copyright Africa: How Intellectual Property, Media and Markets Transform Immaterial Cultural Goods, Canon Pyon 2016; with Dorothea Schulz (eds.), Cultural Entrepreneurship in Africa, London 2016.

  • Lecture

Tea was traded from China to Mali in West Africa across different geographical regions, political economies, cultural contexts, and religious affiliations. It was received by enthusiastic consumers, stern critics, and often assumed national importance, following its translation into local meanings and cultural practices.